The Bay Psalm Book which was published in the year 1640 in America which was then a British colony and is considered to be the first book ever printed has become the most expensive book in the world after fetching $14.2 million in an auction held by Sotheby’s on 26th November. Only eleven copies of the rare edition has survived the centuries and all of them are owned by institutions. Boston’s Old South Church owned two copies of the book and decided to offer one copy for auction to fund building repairs and sustain its ministry. David Redden, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s emphasized the historical significance of the book by confirming that it is the first book printed in British America and the first attempt at mass communication in the United States of America.
The Last Time a Copy of this Book Was Sold Was in 1947
Redded further added that the printing was an act of defiance against Britain by releasing their own version of the bible. It was the spark that led to the independence in 1776. The auction offered a great opportunity to own a copy of this edition as the last time one of the copies from this edition was offered for sale way back in 1947. It had created a record for the priciest book in an auction by fetching $151,000. Sotheby’s estimate for the current auction was in the range of $15 million to $30 million and the final bid came very close to it. It is a new record for the most expensive printed book ever sold. The previous record was held by John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” which was also auctioned by Sotheby’s in December 2010 for $11,542,683.
Boston’s Old South Church Owns the Rare Tome
The Whole Book of Psalmes or the Bay Psalm Book was owned by Boston’s Old South Church which is a member of the Protestant denomination United Church of Christ and was established in 1669 as a nonprofit organization. The members voted in December 2012 to sell the rare tome. The substantial sum received from the auction will help them maintain their National Historic Landmark building and also increase their outreach programs. The rare and valuable book attracted a lot of serious collectors to the auction. It is unlikely that any of the other copies of the book might be offered for sale any time soon as they are owned by Harvard and Yale universities and other institutions. The auction was held on November 26 at the Sotheby’s premises in New York.